Start of School/Formation During COVID

Usually or normally, we would….  Doesn’t it seem that we start a lot of things that way these days?  We are faced with developing a new normal.  Once our children head back to school in the Fall, we give them a week (or two depending on the calendar) and then we would have our big “Rally Day/Start of Christian Formation/Christian Formation Kick off.”

Where once we would have a big barbecue after the Blessing of Backpacks (see blog for how we are doing this now) filled with games and talking, we are faced with children starting school online and the inability to safely gather large groups of people.  The following week (if not Labor Day), we would have balloons lining the hallways, gifts waiting for each student, and Christian Formation/Sunday School classrooms filled with excited volunteers and children.  How do we bring that excitement when we cannot gather?  After asking myself, “What is the mission behind these events?  What is it that makes them so valuable?”  The answer for our church is community, relationships, connection (or re-connection) and learning about God.

The challenge becomes how can we create the things that made these days special during COVID-19 spread?  To build community, I am introducing a church-wide game.  We are having a Lego-My-Bible LEGO Master Tournament.  Everyone will participate by either building or helping vote (see previous blog on how I am doing this).  To build relationships, I am creating a prayer and pen pal buddy.  Children sign up (so only those who truly want to do this).  I will match them by age/grade.  Children write letters, schedule facetime talks, and think of little gifts they can make for each other.  Most importantly, they pray for each other, which is formation and relationship building.  I will share prayers to help when they cannot find the words.  I, also, have started a letter writing campaign with the goal of writing a letter to each child by hand (that is over 150).  I am hoping to get some volunteers to write encouraging letters in October to all children if we are still in “Shelter-at-Home” status. Connection is a little bit harder.  It is hard to connect to something bigger when we are alone.  I plan to continue weekly formation and chapel on line each week, but am adding other ways that are not as organized.  Lunch with Deacon Lauren on Zoom is my plan.  With a small age appropriate topic, I plan to spend lunch hour once a week with children by age/grade.  The goal is to connect to each other as we “share” a meal together.  Learning about God will continue in partnership form.  I plan to post live-streams that can be watched throughout the week, Children’s worship twice weekly and the Family Bible/Devotions on my “For Families” page.

Translating this for your church, what is the reason/purpose you do the events for school and start of Christian Formation/Sunday School?  What are your goals?  How can you take those things and translate them to online?  If you are having trouble finding alternatives to your goals, please feel free to contact me and I will help think of ideas.

Have a blessed and safe start of the school/program year!

Fall Christian Formation Planning for Children and Families with Young Children During COVID

Like many Directors of Christian Formation and Children’s Ministry Directors, planning for “Sunday School” or regular Christian Formation is challenging. We want to keep our children safe, but we want to give thtem the tools to continue on their faith journey. Many families are feeling overwhelmed by becoming their child’s teacher in addition to all the other roles being home bound now require. Ideally, this is when the church becomes a support system and a place of comfort, as well as, a place to encounter God and learn.

I wanted to compile a list with lots of different offering so families can pick and choose what they want to do, what they can do, and allow for flexibility to change week to week. I have compiled a list of free online resources that can be shared and used by families inaddition to the online worship service at their normal Sunday Worship.

Here is the list with links:

Children’s Chapels

St. Paul’s Children’s Chapel twice a week: Sundays at 11 AM, Wed 9:30 AM on Facebook Live (can view anytime). Sunday is for all children, while Wednesdays is more for preschool age. www.facebook.com/stpaulswinstonsalem

St. Anne’s Children Message: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZeR42POMr68m5R8rwAIGDA?app=desktop

St. Luke’s Children’s Chapel Sundays at 10:00 AM  https://www.facebook.com/StLukesSalisbury/

Nativity Children’s Message on Sundays: https://www.facebook.com/nativityonline

Summer Sundays at Emmanuel: http://www.emmanuel-parish.org/  

St. Mary’s Chapel: http://www.amyschapelchat.org/chapel-chat-videos.html

Free Resources for Online Ideas/Curriculum/Formation Events Continue Family Formation & Devotion activities to do together (Bible Story, meditation, prayer, discussion questions, craft, music video link, outreach activity, activity to do together, in-reach activity (serving our family), games, watching the story video links, and summer Flat Jesus activity.)  Comes out once a week with up to three saved on the site.  Link: http://www.laurensline.com/family-devotions-formation/ 

Ideas for Children’s Ministry Online events (Online Summer Camp, Lego, Kindergarten events, etc.) http://www.laurensline.com/blog/

http://churchschool.info/  (Virtual Sunday School on line resource)

https://lessonplansthatwork.org/ (Episcopal Church includes home and group activities) *(Also in Spanish)

Do Lego Bible Build once a month for all ages.  http://www.laurensline.com/2020/06/22/virtual-lego-ministry-night/

Forward Movement: Faith at Home: www.dofaithathome.org -sends out weekly readings and activities based on weekly lectionary scripture readings. *(Also in Spanish)

Family Faith and Prayer Booklets https://www.thykingdomcome.global/sites/default/files/2019-03/TKC_Home_Pack_V4.pdf    *(Also in Spanish)

www.spokanediocese.org/worship/worshipathome.html (Also in Spanish)

Parent group do the Living Compass Parenting.  Put in groups of 12.  Meet once a week or month. https://www.livingcompass.org/parents (also have teen program)  *(Also in Spanish)

Using Zoom: Meet by grade/age meetings, lunch with Children’s Minister, EYC for 4th & 5th Graders, Parents After Dark, Taco Tuesdays, Reading to Preschoolers, and discussion of use family home curriculum.

Video Formation: Send out videos to watch on Sundays (Instructed Eucharist, Bible Stories, etc.) and then on an Evening have a Zoom discussion.  Lots of materials, just watch before you send out for appropriateness and beliefs.

Helping a Child Prepare and Families Honor a Child’s Baptism

Baptism is one of the joyous gatherings of family, friends and church.  Besides being one of the Episcopal Church’s major Sacrament, it is a major ritual and tradition in many of our families.

Once a child is old enough to understand what is about to take place, about three years of age, it is important to include the child in preparation for Baptism.  Once Baptized, it is important to have a celebration annually of this important milestone in the child’s life and in the family life.  It is a reminder of the spiritual/faith journey that was started and a good time to reevaluate where we are on that path.

Child Preparation/Family Preparation:

  1. Start by reading Jesus’ Baptism (Luke1-2; Matthew 1-2:15).
  2. Discuss what other stories in the Bible involving water?  (Noah, Exodus, Woman at the Well)
  3. What does Baptism mean to the parents? 
  4. Talk about Baptism (The Book of Common Prayer pages 858-859) for parents and older children. For younger, put in simple words what is written in the BCP.
  5. For children 10 and under, I read with them: Today is a Baptism Day by Anna V. Osteneo Moore.  Asking at each page, I wonder what this means to you?  Add to what is said to help them grasp an understanding of what the Baptism Covenant is.
  6. Review the “what will happen” at the Baptism (the mechanics) to the child.
  7. This is a special day!  Discuss ways to celebrate this day and going forward each year.
  8. At home, ask them to look at other family member’s baptisms’ pictures, candles, bulletins, and other memorabilia.   I give them a copy of the book to reread a few times before the big day and encourage them to call me or come see me with any questions that may come up.

Celebrating an Anniversary of Baptism- Here are ideas and ways to honor the day in the years to come! The family is encouraged to develop their own tradition to celebrate.  Ideas include:

  1. Lighting their Baptismal Candle and each family member saying a blessing about the person and closing it with prayer.
  2. Giving the child a book of age appropriate prayers or Bible with the whole family encircling the child or laying hands on the child while a prayer is said.
  3. Get out pictures from the child’s Baptism, with each person saying how the child has grown in faith or on their life journey.  Close the time with the child having a cupcake or some small celebration treat after a prayer is said for the child.
  4. Ask the Godparents over for dinner on each anniversary of the Baptism or some other person who is important in the child’s faith life.
  5. Each person in the family writes a short poem or prayer for the child and then reads them out loud while the Baptismal Candle is lit.  Put them in a scrap book that is added to each year.

Using the Jesus Doll & Kit for Lent

Jesus Doll makes children smile


Lent is a time to focus on our relationships with God and each other. One bridge to the Sunday Morning “box” and to one’s home is with a Jesus Doll.  It helps families become rooted in Jesus in an easy way. After adding a home kit, it has been a wonderful tool to tie our parish and faith to a family’s home life.  Children have loved their turn with the doll and kit.  Parents love having a format to discuss Jesus and faith. One mother told me that her family had never discussed Jesus so much!

The family gets the Jesus Doll and Home kit on Sunday morning and return it the following Sunday.  I send an email during the week to let the coming family know their turn with the doll and kit will start the coming Sunday.  I, also, send an email to the family who has the doll, asking them to send pictures and reminding them to bring it with them on Sunday. We have a large parish, so generally I stick to our Kindergarten Class, but all children love the opportunity to take “Jesus” into their home.

The photographs returned are full of smiles as the child(ren) take Jesus on their different adventures.  Jesus has visited preschool classes, parks, parties, and zoos while with the children.  Jesus, also, joins the family at dinner and bedtime. The books (made from a photo service), are cherished. I title it “Jesus Came to our Homes” and the year. I put the photos in story content.

Parents receive a letter in the kit:

    This is your week with St. Paul’s Jesus Doll and bag.  Enclosed in the bag, you will find a folder with an activity sheet for each child in your family as soon as Jesus comes home and then an activity sheet when Jesus is ready to come back to church.  Please, return the sheets with the doll and book in the bag.  They will be used to make a display and a book.

       The bag, also, contains the book If Jesus Came to My House.  Please read this with your child and use it throughout your time with the Jesus doll as a time to talk about Jesus in our homes and in our lives.

       Please email a photo of your child(ren) with the Jesus Doll and one photo of Jesus doing an activity with your family.  These with the words will be put into a Shutterfly book that will travel with the doll in the future.  Copies will be available for purchase if you would like your own.    

       Included in this folder is a Parent Insights Page.  Please write anything you would like to share about this experience for your family. 

      Please, return the doll and the bag with all the contents the next time you come to the church.  The doll and bag with new sheets will be passed on to the next family.

     Any discussion questions you have with your children that you would like to pass on, please let Lauren know and those will be compiled to travel with the doll.

Enjoy your visit with Jesus at your home and I hope you find ways to include Jesus in all your activities even beyond the doll’s visit.

Additionally, each kit contains

  • Two Activity Sheets for each child: one sheet asks the child to write or draw what they would like to do with Jesus during the coming week and the other is their favorite times with Jesus (write or draw) for child to return and then are displayed.
  • Insight Page for parents to return
  • Book: If Jesus Came to My House
  • Jesus Doll
  • Photo book from previous years

The Jesus Doll and Home Kit was such a success, that I purchased a second Jesus Doll and book. This one goes to our school for classes to use. Jesus, also, attends our parish events. I get various pictures of Jesus with parishioners or “doing” some of our regular activities.

Click on any of the highlighted items to see what I used.  Any items purchased through this link helps to fund this site.

Lent in a Bag: Journey in the Wilderness

Lent in a Bag ready to go.

Developing a way for families to worship, discuss, and bring Lent into their homes without the traditional fasting (or in addition to giving up a food item) is one of the ways we strengthen the bridge between the church and home.

Lent in a Bag is handed out to all families with children on the first Sunday of Lent. Each year, I have a different theme with story items. This is to keep things interesting. For this year, the theme is Journey into the Wilderness. I am focusing on all the Bible stories about people who went into the desert and then came out to do their ministry.

Each week the family sits around the table and pulls one object out of the bag. Attached to each object is a Bible story, a short write up with discussion questions. After listening to the story, eachfamily member passes around the object and answers the questions. The session ends in prayer.

This is very popular and many of our families are excited to share Lent in a Bag with others outside of our church family!

Here are the stories and the items I used for this year:

Jesus- after his baptism, he goes into the wilderness (Matthew 4, Mark 1 or Luke 4) The object is a small bag of sand.

Jesus- in wildnerness tempted rocks to bread (Matthew 4: 1-10). The object is a rock.

Moses leaves Egypt to shepherd int he wilderness (Exodus 2: 11-25). The object is minature sheep.

Moses and the Israelites wander in the dessert (Exodus 32). The object is gold.

John the Baptist (Mark 1: 1-13). The object is a clam shell.

Ezekiel-having a heart for God (Ezekiel 36:24 – 37:14). The object is a heart.

Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18-25 summarized). The object is a baby.

With the theme of into the wilderness as a precusor to ministry, I am hoping it encourages each person to think about their ministry. In the future, if they are driven “into the wilderness” in their lives, then to know an exciting ministry can be ahead in their lives too.

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Family Serving Sunday: Love Thy Neighbor

Setting a Sunday afternoon in February as a Family Service Day teaches community service and outreach, encourages community and family togetherness, promotes living our Baptismal vows, and encourages practicing our faith.

We gather at 4:00 PM in one large room. The story of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is shared and then Jesus washing the disciples feet is shared. We have a short discussion on what loving and serving our neighbor means.

We then divide into three projects. Each child must be accompanied by an adult. The three projects are:

Cooking Class and Making a Meal for the Ronald McDonald House: The instructor shares about what the Ronald McDonald House does. Then we make a meal for 40 people together. We generally make it storage ready, so the Ronald McDonald House can use it for a fill in. This way, all ages can participate in this activity. (We start it at 4 years and up). Supplies needed are: someone to lead the cooking class, fodd items needed, measuring supplies, storage containters, instruction notes for guests of the Ronald McDonald House and someone to deliver to the house. The families learn about cleanliness and safety during the class.

Love “Caroling” and Flower delivery to a Nursing Home: A music leader teaches simple songs about loving God and God’s love for us. We load up in the church bus (or carpool) and go to the nursing home, where they are expecting us. We sing about 15minutes then the children hand out flowers. The residents of the nursing home love having the families visit. Supplies needed: someone who knows songs (and motions), instruments (if desired), and flowers.

Animal Blanket and Toy Making for the Humane Society: A speaker from the humane society comes to talk about caring for our animal friends and what the Humane Society does. The speaker, also, bring some animal friends. We make sewless blankets out of fleece and dog/puppy toys out of PVC pipe, dog food, and pvc caps.

A family signs up in advance for which project they would like to do. It is a lot of fun and we are generally done in an hour to an hour and a half.

Respect the Dignity of Every Human: Loving Your Neighbor

With Martin Luther King, JR. Day approaching, it is an opportunity for the church to offer a lesson or event based on our Baptismal Vows and the Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Children will have learned in school about MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech. (Have some copies on hand, just in case).  Jesus’ “dream” of all people being treated with dignity showed through in his Parable of the Good Samaritan, his talks of the lowly as named by society, and his meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.

An event or lesson would include the telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the woman at the Well. It would include opportunities to interact with people the children/families would not normally socialize with or feel comfortable doing so. This is a great time to expand people’s comfort zone. Some ideas include: invite someone from the homeless shelter, a family who is being helped by the food bank, people of different cultures, someone living in a nursing home, and someone who benefits from your parish outreach program.

Have the guests prepare with: what would you like us to know about you?  What is a typical day like for you?  Since we vow to respect the dignity of every human being, what are ways you feel disrespected and how can we interact with you that helps you to feel respected?

Have some activities.  If from a different culture, maybe a craft or activity from that culture.

If from an outreach program, have information about the program, a list of ways to get involved and a small project to get the children involved in the outreach program.

This can make adults feel uncomfortable, but that is why we avoid the outcast. This is a chance to learn empathy, compassion, and how to treat others with respect and dignity.

Here are some children’s books on Martin Luther King, Jr: I am Martin Luther King, Jr (Ordinary People Change the World), I have a Dream Book & CD, A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.

For other people: Courageous People Who Changed the Worl (Little Heroes), First They were Children: Seven People Who Changed the World

Epiphany Event

January 6th is Epiphany. After the rush of Christmas, hosting an Epiphany event is a perfect way to celebrate the end of Christmas and the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as told by the Magi (Kings/wisemen) visitation.

My Epiphany Event is inter-generational with activities for all ages. I have stations so people can interact and do the activities that interest them. The stations are open for 45 minutes to an hour. When the time is over, we all move to Nave. In the Nave, either an Epiphany Service or an Epiphany Pageant with the Magi visitation is done.

The stations I found the most successful include (with supplies)

Crown making: crowns to decorate, colorful permanent markers, jewel stickers

Star making: wood stars, permanent markers (paint takes to long to dry)

Star musical makers: star clappers, stickers, marker

Epiphany Around the World: articles, pictures, legends and stories from around the world (by country), books, legends

Meditations (with a quiet place to do them)

Photo area with capes to become the Magi (they use the crown they made): background, props (for king gifts).

Coloring pages, stickers, and other artistic materials for young. Mazes and puzzles for older.

Star Cookie Decorating: sugar cookies (made in advance-star cutter), icing, m&ms, sprinkles, small plates, and napkins.

 

Click on the items to see what I have used. By purchasing through the link, you are helping fund this site. Thank you!

 

Christmas Pageant

The Christmas Pageant is a part of tradition.  It can be as big and rehearsed or as small and spontaneous as one chooses.  It is a beautiful way to tell the story of the nativity, get children involved, encourage participation, and increase joy during a hectic, time-crunched time of year.

The easiest and most inclusive pageant, is the simple reading of scripture, with hymns included, and children pantomiming it out.  If a parish is looking for something bigger, there are lots of scripts out there and these produce beautiful pageants (but do not include those newcomers or visitors.)

The Christmas Pageant can be appropriately done on the Fourth Sunday of Advent during the Sunday School (Christian Formation) time, on Christmas Eve during the earliest Service (as the Ministry of the Word) or on Epiphany as an Epiphany Pageant (just add the Magi).

If the Fourth Sunday in Advent or Epiphany is chosen, add to the festivities with crafts, and refreshments.  Publicize, invite, and encourage children from outside the church to come and participate. On Christmas Eve, new families attend and, usually, everyone leaves afterwards for scheduled plans.

In advance, I print instructions for families with children telling them where to go to get dressed and where to go afterwards to return the costume.  Every child, who walks through our door, gets a chance to participate.

In the costume room, I have volunteers waiting to help the children.  Each child is asked whether they would like to be an angel, shepherd or animal.  I have chosen and rehearsed with older children to be Mary, Joseph, Lead Angel (guides the little angels), Lead Shepherd (guides the little shepherds) and Lead Animal Tamer (guides the animals). I, also, have chosen and rehearsed with the readers/narrators their parts in advance.  The Lead parts have rehearsed the songs we will sing, too.  It is the first verse of known carols, so the congregation/audience may participate too.

Costumes can be a problem for 100 children.  For angels, I have men’s small shirts which I hot-glued gold or silver garland around the bottom and sleeves.  I use the same garland for halos.  Only lead angels get wings if the pageant is done during a service (not enough room for wings, otherwise).  For shepherds, I use small men’s colored  Continue reading “Christmas Pageant”

Advent: Angels Event – an Intergenerational & Family Event

Angels are, probably, one of the most used creatures in movies, art, theater, books, and other forms of media.  Yet, very rarely, are angels shown as the angels in the Bible.  Most of what people know about angels comes from the arts, not the Bible.

Hosting an Angelic Event during Advent encourages learning, Bible knowlege growth, fun, fellowship, and a way to keep the holiday season faith focused.

Families, congregation member, children and youth gather for stories of angels in the Bible verses the angels depicted in the arts.   This, also, encourages parents to be their children’s main faith teacher, build a time of community, encourage exploration and help families to think of church and faith beyond Sunday mornings.

I set this up as stations to encourage everyone to move about and explore.  One can have as many or as few stations as one would like.  I, also, set up a cookie and lemonade table for when people get hungry, as well as chairs for fellowship.

The stations I have used are:

  • Crafts- 2 Stations set up opposite in the room                                                                                                                          Coffee Filter Angel: need coffee filters, cotton balls, gold pipe cleaners                                                                            Ornament Angel: including a beaded angel (kit) and wood angel ornament (I use permanet markers for them to decorate so they can take it home with them that evening.)
  • Games and Puzzle Stations- Wood Searches, hidden objects, and mazes with angels.  I , also, copy a picture of an angel on cardstock for anyone to make into a puzzle Angel.  This is two stations.Matching Game- I have angels in art copied and let children cut them out to make into a matching game.  Will need scissors to cut the angels out and bags to put their game in to take home.Nativity Rock, paper, scissors (Mary, Joseph, Angel: Mary wins Joseph wins Angel, Angel wins Mary) and a Bingo game featuring angels in the arts and Biblical Stories with angels. (Nativity Bingo and Biblical Bingo are two already made sets you can purchase or make your own.)
  • Learning about Angels: Make Q & A posters (interactive-queston on one sheet taped to posterboard with answer on another piece of paper.  They lift up the question to read the answer.)  Questions include- What are the types of angels mentioned in the Bible?   What are the four roles of Cherubim? How many times are Seraphim mentioned in the Bible?  What forms do the Living Creatures Angels take?  What angels have names in the Bible? How many angels are there (according to the Bible)? Do angels have wings? Are angels easy to spot (see)?   What three people in the Bible does an angel come visit to tell them they will have a baby?  What does Gabriel’s name mean?   Were angels created by God or have they always been there?   Are guardian angels mentioned in the Bible?    The answers have Biblical Scripture text.
  • Angel Reading Station-books, angel dolls, angel statues, Christmas tree angels (Here is a few angel dolls to start off –one blonde and one brunette. For angel statues, here is one neutral hair and one child friendly.                   
  • Angels in the Arts-pictures with information of how angels have been depicted and any information about the artist, the media work, or the angel.   A book with some information and pictures in Angels in the Arts.           
  • Station with name tags and Information sheet for parents on activities to do with child for faith.
  • Small Child station with coloring pages, crayons, and simple crafts to make.
  • Ornament Angels (display of different angels borrowed from different people in the church.)

I schedule a volunteer at each station.  Every year, the ornament can be changes and other stations can be added.

 

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